When you hear talk about "the good life," what comes to mind? A new car every two years? A spacious home in a well-to-do neighborhood? Fortunately for us, God's definition of the good life is much better than that. It's something we all can have-something we already have, whether we realize it or not.
The good life is simply a life showered with God's goodness. Psalm 116:7 says, "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." Regardless of your income or social status, God has showered and will continue to shower his goodness on you again and again. You don't have to fret if your piece of pie doesn't seem as big as someone else's. You can rest in thankfulness and appreciation for what you do have, knowing that God has been good to you.
On some level, this tendency to define the good life by worldly standards is a hindrance that entices us all. How easy it is to get caught up in unhealthy comparisons. But remember what Hebrews 12:1 tells us: "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." Ingratitude is a grievous sin when it causes us to look at our lives through deprivation-colored glasses. But when we change our perspective on what it means to live well, we soon realize that nothing stands in the way of our living the good life-no income shortage, no financial hardship, nothing-except our own attitude toward whatever circumstances we face.
In our fifteen years of marriage, Michael and I have experienced our share of having very little. Most times we have chosen to view our cup as half full rather than half empty. But I can remember a season during which I struggled with this. It was during the Christmas holidays right before our daughter was born. Our businesses had not done well that year, and with the added expenses of a pregnancy without insurance coverage, our budget was even tighter than usual by the time the holidays rolled around.
"I wish Christmas would just go away!" I told Michael in a moment of frustration as we talked about whether we should buy a Christmas tree that year. We could barely afford inexpensive presents for everyone on our list; how could we justify spending even fifteen to twenty dollars more for a small tree?
I felt poor, and I didn't like the feeling one bit. Intellectually, I knew Christmas was not about how much we could spend or whether we had elaborate decorations. I also knew we had more than our share to be thankful for-not the least of which was a beautiful baby on the way. Yet in my heart I couldn't shake the feeling of being deprived because our holiday celebration would be much simpler than that of our relatives and friends.
Have you ever experienced a similar situation? Are you feeling that life has dealt you a bad hand compared with that of someone else? Here are some things I did that you can also do to help move from feeling sorry for yourself to feeling grateful within your circumstances:
Refocus on your blessings.Although we couldn't afford expensive gifts, we could afford to give each person on our list something. Although we couldn't buy a tree, we had an ample supply of decorations to make the house look festive. What can you be thankful for in your current circumstances? Instead of focusing on what isn't as you'd like it to be, focus on the blessings to be found when you choose to look for them.
Put your creativity to work.I worked hard at finding out-of-the-ordinary ways for us to give of ourselves while still giving within our means. Instead of feeling bad because I couldn't buy expensive gifts, I focused on using my time and talents to express my love for each person on my list. Likewise, you will probably feel much better about your situation if you approach it with a healthy dose of creativity. Look for ways to enjoy simple pleasures and make the most of what you have.
Let go of preconceived expectations and ideas.Having a good Christmas that year required that I let go of any expectations about what an enjoyable holiday celebration was supposed to be. I knew that if I busied myself with being thankful and resourceful, there wouldn't be much time left for feeling sorry for myself. You too may have to let go of some preconceived notions about what it means for you and your family to have a satisfying life. Ask God to help you let go of worldly definitions of success and accomplishment so you can embrace his definition of living the good life.
Has the habit of comparison held you back? Have you allowed ingratitude to sneak in and steal your joy? If so, it's time to get rid of any faulty perceptions of what it means to live well. Choose instead to live with gratitude, and rest in the clarity of God's goodness.
[Excerpt taken from: From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out © 2007 by Nancy Twigg, published by Standard Publishing (www.standardpub.com). Used by permission.]